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IQ and EQ give way to spiritual intelligence, the ultimate intelligence that can add value and meaning to your life

For long, the world gave much importance to Intelligence Quotient. “My son has an IQ of 210!” the proud mother would gush. “He’s going to be a scientist.” This attitude is a legacy of the early 20th century when psychologists devised tests to measure intelligence. These tests primarily measured intellectual or rational intelligence (used to solve logical problems). The higher the figure, the belief went, the greater the intelligence.
In mid-1990s, Daniel Goleman revealed findings in neuroscience and psychology that stressed the importance of Emotional Quotient (EQ). This makes us aware of our feelings and that of others. It gives empathy, motivation, compassion and an ability to respond skillfully to pleasure and pain. Goleman argued that EQ was a basic requirement for the use of IQ. If the areas of our brain that feel are damaged, our ability to think effectively is diminished.

Last year, however, authors Dana Zohar and Ian Marshall introduced a new dimension to human intelligence. Spiritual Quotient (or SQ) is the ultimate intelligence, they claim. This is the intelligence used to solve problems of meaning and value. “Is my job giving me the fulfillment I seek?” “Am I relating to the people in my life in a way that contributes to their happiness and mine?” Answers to these questions determine whether we will find happiness or not. IQ and EQ are inadequate in such issues.

“Spiritual intelligence,” explains Ram Mohan, a Vedanta teacher, “is about the growth of a human being. It is about moving on in life. About having a direction in life and being able to heal ourselves of all the resentment we carry. It is thinking of ourselves as an expression of a higher reality. It is also about how we look at the resources available to us. We realize that nature is not meant to be exploited. Ultimately, we discover freedom from our sense of limitation as human beings and attain moksha.”

Anand Tendolkar, a workshop leader, says: “For me spiritual intelligence is about pondering over my life’s purpose. Just being in touch with that question is fulfilling. Finally I realize that there is an immensity to me. As I move along the path, deeper levels of myself get unfolded, leading to fulfillment.”

Humans are essentially spiritual beings, evolved to ask fundamental questions. “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “What do others mean to me?” It is an ability to answer questions like these that lead people to personal growth workshops. Spiritual intelligence motivates people to balance their work schedules to spend time with the family. Or an executive with a high SQ might look beyond profit margins and devote time for voluntary work with orphans. Spiritual intelligence also addresses the need to place one’s life in a shared context of value.

The transformative power of SQ distinguishes it from IQ and EQ. IQ primarily solves logical problems. EQ allows us to judge the situation we are in and behave appropriately. SQ allows us to ask if we want to be in that situation in the first place. It might motivate us to create a new one. SQ has little connection to formal religion. Atheists and humanists may have high SQ while someone actively religious may not.

“The awakening of our spiritual intelligence may be a time of great joy and meaning,” says Anita Pandey, who frequents personal growth programs. “Suddenly I had a feeling of being in control. Earlier things happened to me. Now I am more aware. Also, I have actually started living those values I had heard about—like acceptance and unconditional love.”

In their book Spiritual Intelligence—The Ultimate Intelligence, Zohar and Marshall discuss the scientific evidence for SQ. In the 1990s, research by neuropsychologist Michael Persinger and neurologist V.S. Ramachandran at the University of California led to an identification of a ‘God-spot’ in the human brain. This area is located among neural connections in the temporal lobes of the brain. During scans with positron emission topography, these neural areas light up whenever research subjects are exposed to discussion of spiritual topics. Of course, this is culture specific, with Westerners responding to ideas of ‘God’ and Buddhists and Hindus responding to certain symbols. While the God-spot does not prove the existence of ‘God’, it does indicate that the brain is programmed to ask ultimate questions.

We use spiritual intelligence to transform ourselves and others, heal relationship, cope with grief, and move beyond conditioned habits of the past. To develop high SQ, each person needs to approach the task according to his/her personality.
J.L. Holland divided people into six personality types (take the test) and devised tests to determine one’s type, or the mix.

On each personality test we would have scored between zero and 12. This indicates the strength of our interest in that sector of life. An average adult will score 6 or more on perhaps three of the personality types. For example, we might score highest (say nine) on the artistic type, but score seven on the enterprising type and six on the investigative. Naturally, we must allow for some degree of overlap between the different types.

Once we know our personality type, we can better choose our particular path to higher SQ.

We follow this path by serving the community. This is done by realizing our life’s purpose and following it with full commitment. We have the interest of humanity in mind and pursue what we truly love for others’ sake. Many of us may want to associate ourselves with a specific organization to fulfill this ambition.

Whatever outlet we choose, we must avoid two common mistakes that people on this path make. Avoid becoming narcissistic. It is an easy trap to slip into. At one point we may withdraw completely from relationships and focus only on ourselves. Behaviors associated with such self-absorption include lying in bed late, heavy drinking and smoking and overindulgence in food and sex. A narcissist must address his problems adequately through therapy or spiritual practices before he can progress on the path of duty.

Avoid extreme identification with your group and its uncritical championing. We must realize that there is a place in the world for groups whose values differ from ours.


This path is about loving, nurturing and protecting. It corresponds to the Mother Goddess. People on this path include parents, teachers, nurses and therapists, who reach out to others with acceptance and compassion and provide them with the space to grow and find themselves.
To pursue this path, the right attitude is crucial. “How can I serve others when I myself need so much from others?” explains Ram Mohan. “For example, I live in a city where many of the things I consume—like food and medicines—are not produced. I need the efforts of so many people to make life possible. I realize that I am only making my talents available to people in return for things I am receiving. When I look at it this way, it helps me face the many disappointments I may encounter.”

It is important to be mindful of the way we help others. A distorted way is to succumb to the shadow aspect of love and nurturing, which is hatred and revenge. Love can be patient and kind but when we do not truly love ourselves, our love for others becomes bitter and destructive.

Another common failing is to suffocate the person we seek to love. We have to give the person space to grow. To pursue this path effectively, we must be receptive and listen to the other person. We must be willing to reveal ourselves to others. A risk-free approach is unlikely to succeed.

When we meet great teachers, one striking thing about them is their ability to truly be there for another person. Such attention and empathy is rare. To pursue this path, we must model ourselves on a teacher or mentor who has already clarified his life before reaching out to others.


The path of knowledge covers a broad range of experience. It could be something as simple as solving everyday problems. Or, as vast as pursuing a spiritual path. Most people on this path are scholars, scientists or those who have an intense love of learning.
How we pursue this path can have profound benefits for mankind. One can engage in research that solves problems plaguing mankind. For instance, a scientist could devise a cheap fuel that is eco-friendly.

While the potential of this path is limitless, we must clarify our intention in pursuing it.

We must realize that all things are interconnected and we cannot apply our knowledge to one area of experience without having profound effects on others.

Nandan Savnal, Mumbai-based NLP trainer, alerts us to another crucial aspect: “One of the most important challenges on this path,” he says, “is whether you are going to be honest with yourself and question things. When you investigate matters, your value system will be challenged. You will have to press on regardless. You cannot afford to operate from your comfort zone.”

Another spiritually unintelligent way to walk this path that must be avoided is using our talent to support morally reprehensible work. Like the historians who deny the Holocaust or those who devote themselves to spreading racist propaganda.

Writers, artists, musicians and their like constitute only 10 to 15 percent of the population. But most of us walk this path to some extent. The task facing such people is personal and transpersonal integration. We must explore the depths of ourselves and weld the disparate fragments into a harmonious whole.
The path most closely associated with the brain’s God-spot activity, people here are most open to extreme emotions and eccentric behavior. For this reason, artists are most often thought of as society’s healers (or shamans). They journey into the unknown and return with a fragment that can heal us all. This is the process that has created some of the world’s greatest art.

Cultures throughout history have treated the artist as someone blessed with special vision. Indeed, their capacity to create societal awareness is profound. Consider the great saint-poets like Rumi and Kabir.

For Savnal, engaging with great stories from different traditions has been therapeutic. “When I was young,” he says, “I was fascinated by the story about Bhima in which he has a wrestling match and jumps up with the strength of ten elephants every time he is knocked down. With time, I realized that the suggestion is to bounce back with greater energy every time you face a setback.”

We must watch out for certain traps, however. One is becoming an aesthete—people concerned with form only who produce art purely for sensual gratification. Their goal is acquisition and display. Another common failing is to be a compulsive, permanent rebel. Such people will resist order and imagination in their art, fight committed relationships and even miss deadlines.

The extremes described above are a turning away from conflict. But when an artist embraces his conflict he can claim his spiritual intelligence and produce art of lasting value.

Priti Sen is a caring middle-aged mother and a devoted wife. Her husband is a rich, influential businessman. She loves socializing and also does charity work. Seemingly strong, cheerful and in charge of her life, the truth about her is not immediately obvious. Her teenage son lost both his legs in an accident. While her shattered husband and other children cry almost daily, Priti is quiet, sensible and calm. She busies herself caring for her son, building a new life for him. Her ability to accept adversity is a source of strength to her family.

Priti exemplifies the attributes of the realistic type. Practical, no-nonsense, uncomfortable with overt feelings, these people personify the virtues of the hero. Their mission in life is to pursue the path of brotherhood and justice. It is to see a connection between themselves and all other beings. A Buddhist sutra describes this: “In the heaven of Indra (the king of the gods in the Hindu pantheon) there is a network of pearls so arranged that if you look at one, you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way, each object in the world is not merely itself, but involves every other object and in fact is every other object.”

Those who have internalized this precept form organizations that bring justice into the world. They decide how rights and goods are distributed for the benefit of all. This involves respect for the other’s point of view. When such people work together in NGOs or spiritual organizations, they grow toward a deeper understanding that all people are players in a larger pattern.

All human groupings, families, tribes and societies need leaders to impart vision, motivation and purpose. Effective leaders must be confident, outgoing and comfortable with power. Truly great leaders are servant-leaders-those who serve humanity by creating new ways for people to relate to each other. They put the good of society above their own good and take society in new directions. Buddha and Jesus were such leaders. In India, we had Emperor Ashoka who, after his brutal conquest of Kalinga, converted to Buddhism and embraced nonviolence. And environmentalists like Sunderlal Bahuguna and Medha Patkar have forced people to look afresh at ecological issues.
It must be stressed, however, that a servant-leader should have a great deal of inner clarity. A spiritually unintelligent way to walk this path is to use one’s power to exploit others. Another mistake is to focus purely on one’s petty needs and ignore the interests of the people we serve.

“The challenge is to have a vision,” says Ram Mohan. “After that, the task is to build trust and empower people to give their best.” It is essential to do this ethically. In a corrupt society, there will be pressures on us and we must know how to handle it. To retain his balance, a leader would do well to think about trusteeship. Gandhi declared that when an individual has more than his proportionate share of wealth, he should become a trustee of that portion on God’s behalf.

It is to this noble vision of leadership that one must aspire. In an increasingly fragmented world, we need leaders of vision who can bring hope and purpose into the lives of others, someone who sees all of humanity as God’s people. As Jesus said: “Not my will, Lord, but thine.”

The outline of the above paths is meant to help those who wish to develop their spiritual intelligence and gain a better awareness of themselves. To this awareness must be added the invaluable ingredient of hard work. But thinking of ourselves as spiritual beings is a useful start. Once we do this, we can enlarge our idea of intelligence to include this greater vision of ourselves.

When we commit ourselves to the chosen paths in this light, we begin to imbue greater meaning, value and fulfillment in our lives.

1. Flexibility
2. Self-awareness
3. An ability to face and use suffering
4. The ability to be inspired by a vision
5. An ability to see connections between diverse things (thinking holistically)
6. A desire and capacity to cause as little harm as possible
7. A tendency to probe and ask fundamental questions
8. An ability to work against convention

With the popularity of EQ and SQ in recent years, it might be worth remembering an older way of conceiving intelligence, which helps cultivate individual aspects of ourselves. This is Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence. In 1984, in his book Frames of Mind—The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he offered a critique of IQ testing and suggested that what we possess is not one ‘intelligence’ but seven different intelligences. These are: logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and spatial.

Intelligence Type:
How To Develop It:

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
This is what we use to manipulate concepts and arrange them into meaningful patterns. We develop this by constantly confronting objects, assessing them and reordering them.

Linguistic Intelligence
This is the intelligence that gives us sensitivity to language, an ability to absorb and manipulate it skillfully and to be aware of shades of meaning.

Musical Intelligence
This gives us our sensitivity to sound, our ability to arrange sounds into patterns pleasing to the human ear.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
This is the intelligence that gives us the ability to perform tasks of great discipline and commitment with our bodies. Dancers, athletes and martial arts practitioners have this.

Interpersonal Intelligence
This gives us the ability to relate skillfully with others, to be aware of our feelings and the other person’s, to see where the other person is coming from.

Intrapersonal Intelligence
This is about becoming truly aware of ourselves and having the ability to constantly purify ourselves in order to access higher levels of joy and power.

Spatial Intelligence
This form of intelligence calls upon our ability to create a mental image. It gives us the capacity to perceive the visual world accurately and to perform transformations and modifications upon our initial perceptions. Artists, designers and architects have this intelligence.

1. Learn a computer language
2. Work on logic puzzles
3. Identify scientific principles around the house: pumps, bulbs etc.

1. Take a writing class
2. Record yourself speaking into a tape-recorder
3. Memorize passages of poetry

1. Sing in the shower
2. Memorize tunes
3. Spend time listening to music everyday

1. Take up martial arts like tai chi or karate
2. Take up a sport
3. Learn a craft such as woodworking or crochet

1. Decide to meet one new person a week and stay in touch.
2. Join an NGO
3. Spend 15 minutes a day listening actively to a friend.

1. Do a vipassana course and make it a part of your life
2. Spend time with yourself everyday, just being quiet
3. Read biographies of people with powerful personalities

1. Take classes in painting, sculpture or photography
2. Buy a graphics software program and create designs on the computer
3. Watch films with attention to lighting, camera angles, color and other aspects of cinema.

By Cherian P. Tekkeveettil

Source : Life

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August 2020